Gesser eventually skins the Cats

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

HAMILTON -- The Calgary Stampeders backup plan took a while to get organized.

But once Jason Gesser got through two-and-a-half ugly quarters of his first CFL start, things really started to roll for the former Washington State college star.

Gesser threw three touchdown passes as the Stampeders beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 39-17 last night in front of 27,821 fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

"I just needed to get confidence in myself," Gesser said. "I was rushing things. I settled down at halftime, took a deep breath and said this can't get any worse than it is right now.

"I wanted to go out there and trust what I see and play. The offensive line played great, our receivers made big plays and we got the victory."

The win puts the Stamps at 6-6. Calgary won back-to-back games for the first time in two years. The last time the Stamps won on consecutive weeks was July 11, 2003. Hamilton is mired in another dismal season and fell to 2-10.

In replacing Henry Burris, who had surgery this week on torn thumb ligaments, Gesser was downright terrible for 30 minutes. He threw four interceptions -- one that was returned for a touchdown -- and overthrew targets all over the field.

Until Nik Lewis caught a 43-yard TD pass in the third quarter, Gesser had thrown more passes to Ticats than he had to Stampeders.

The Stamps defence turned in an impressive showing with three interceptions and two fumbles to gain good field position.

Gesser hit Ken-Yon Rambo on a 19-yard touchdown, then tossed a 10-yarder to MarTay Jenkins to put the Stamps up for good in the fourth quarter.

The Stamps also got two touchdowns from their defence as both Brian Clark and John Grace picked off Ticats quarterback Danny McManus.

"Our defence won the game for us," Gesser said. "Without them, we wouldn't have won this game. Our defence had a bunch of turnovers and scored two touchdowns. That's a big thing. When the guys stick behind you, that's the key. The guys were giving me votes of confidence coming off the field."

Most of this contest was ugly, though. Gesser's second pass was picked off as Jykine Bradley stepped in front of Brett Ralph and scampered 73 yards for a TD.

Head coach Tom Higgins refused to give up on Gesser, though.

"There was a time we thought we would go to Danny Wimprine but we just kept thinking, give him another series, another series," Higgins said. "It paid dividends to us. We wanted to show confidence in him ... He did enough to stay in."

Ticats veteran Danny McManus engineered an efficient opening drive, putting the Stamps down 7-0 before Gesser even got his hands on the ball.

The drive include two catches by D.J. Flick of 17 and 30 while Dondre Gilliam capped it off with a six-yard reception from McManus.

On a play from the Ticats four, Stampeders Jerame Southern came unblocked to drill McManus while he was trying to pass from the endzone.

The ball sailed high into the air for Grace to catch it and walk in for a four-yard interception return. The hit rattled the 39-year-old, who spent the next two quarters icing his jaw while former Stamp Khari Jones took the reins. McManus returned late in the third quarter.

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CALGARY STAMPEDERS: 39

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS: 17


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